Race, youth and Gilda Radner highlight Cinetopia Film Festival

The multi-city festival, now in its seventh year, will host a handful of Michigan and Midwest premieres

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

The Cinetopia Film Festival kicks off its seventh year on Thursday with the Midwest premiere of Bo Burnham's "Eighth Grade," the Sundance hit that marks the 27-year-old's directorial debut. 

Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder in “Love Gilda,” a documentary.


The fest rolls on through June 10 at venues in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Detroit, with a slate of films culled from the top film festivals around the world, including Cannes, Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival. 

The best way to experience the fest is to buy a pass and roll the dice. That said, here's a guide to some of the fest's more interesting-sounding choices, including narratives, documentaries and topics of local interest.  

"Eighth Grade" -- Bo Burnham started out as a YouTuber, briefly flirted with a rap career, released a couple of stand-up specials and eventually wrote and directed this comic drama, his first film. It centers on Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a teenager on the verge of entering high school and dealing with the perils of modern adolescence. Burnham will be on hand to introduce this screening. (8 p.m. Thursday, Michigan Theater) 

"American Animals" -- Evan Peters (Quicksilver in the "X-Men" films), Blake Jenner ("Everybody Wants Some!!") and Barry Keoghan ("The Killing of a Sacred Deer") lead the cast in this crime drama from Sundance about a group of suburban youths who rebel against their middle class upbringing by planning a daring heist. (6 p.m. Friday, Michigan Theater Screening Room; 4 p.m. Saturday, Michigan Theater; 5 p.m. Monday, State Theater) 

Daveed Diggs, left, and Rafael Casal and in “Blindspotting,” a riveting drama about race in America.


"Blindspotting" -- A riveting drama about race in America written by and starring Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, the latter of whom won a Tony for his work in "Hamilton." Casal and Diggs will be on hand to lead what is sure to be a lively discussion on June 8. Don't miss this one. (6:30 p.m. June 8, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; 8 p.m. June 10, Michigan Theater Screening Room) 

"Hearts Beat Loud" -- Director Brett Haley, whose previous film "The Hero" was one of the selections at last year's Cinetopia, co-writes and directs this story of a father (Nick Offerman) who starts a band with his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) and lands an unexpected hit. (4 p.m. Sunday, Michigan Theater Screening Room; 4:30 p.m. June 10, Cinema Detroit) 

"Hal" -- This documentary about filmmaker Hal Ashby, whose resume includes the celebrated works "Harold and Maude," "Shampoo," "Bound for Glory" and "Coming Home," focuses on the director's clashes with the Hollywood machine. Featuring interviews with Jon Voight, Jane Fonda, David O. Russell, Judd Apatow and more. (5:45 p.m. Friday, Michigan Theater Annex Cinema; 2:30 p.m. June 9, State Theater; 2 p.m. June 10, Cinema Detroit) 

"The Guilty" -- This Danish thriller about a police officer (Jakob Cedergren), demoted to working the phones, takes place mostly through phone calls and still managed to captivate audiences at this year's Sundance. (8:15 Friday, State Theater; 1:15 p.m. Saturday, State Theater; 7:30 p.m. June 8, Cinema Detroit; 3:45 p.m. June 10, State Theater) 

"The Big House" -- Ann Arbor's Michigan Stadium, affectionately known as "The Big House," takes center stage in this documentary that looks at the biggest stadium in the United States and what goes into hosting 107,601 rabid fans every football Saturday. (7 p.m. Sat, State Theater; 1 p.m. June 10, Michigan Theater Screening Room) 

"Love, Gilda" -- Detroit's own Gilda Radner is the subject of this documentary that looks at the early "Saturday Night Live" star's life and untimely death, at the age of 42 in 1989. A Michigan premiere. (2 p.m. June 10, Detroit Film Theater) 

"Savage Youth" -- Writer, director and Eastern Michigan University grad Michael Curtis Johnson follows the lives of a handful of young Americans struggling to make their mark on the world. A Midwest premiere. (7:15 p.m. Saturday, State Theater; 5 p.m. Sunday, State Theater; 7:15 p.m. June 9, State Theater) 

"A Boy. A Girl. A Dream." -- Ann Arbor-bred writer and director Qasim Basir ("Destined") follows two strangers who meet on Election Night 2016 in this L.A. tale that daringly unfolds in one continuous take. (9 p.m. Friday, Michigan Theater Screening Room; 6 p.m. June 10, College for Creative Studies) 


Thursday-June 10 

Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Detroit




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